27 September 2011

Spice Rack Challenge: Mustard Seeds!

Posted in events, food at 8:38 am by Tricia

The challenge for this month was mustard seeds, with a nod to making summer last a little longer.

I started out by perusing Epicurious on my iPod, and I came up with a couple of recipes that looked interesting. The first was a rice dish (jasmine rice pilaf with mustard seeds). Sadly, the rice was kind of bland (even after I added salt on reheating). The mustard seeds didn’t really add much that I could tell. I also tested out green beans with red onion and mustard seed vinaigrette. The green beans were delicious at first, but when I reheated them and ate later, they were a bit too vinegary for me. I do think the onion vinaigrette has promise, though. (And true to form, I took both of these dishes to a block party!) I figured I could blog these, even though I wasn’t totally excited about them.

Flash forward to this week. Sweet corn season is on its last legs, so I bought half a dozen ears on Wednesday (and the farmer threw in an extra for free). I remembered seeing a couple of interesting corn recipes in my favorite cookbook, so imagine my excitement when I found that one of them included mustard seeds! I took what was left after dinner on Thursday and scraped the kernels off the ears and made spicy corn with sesame seeds and tomatoes.

spicy corn ingredients

most of the ingredients, assembled for one photo opp...

Spicy Corn with Sesame Seeds and Tomatoes
Tamatar Varu Makai Nu Shaak
(serves 4)

2 Tab peanut or canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
generous pinch of ground asafetida
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh hot green chile, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tab sesame seeds
1 smallish onion (3 oz), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups corn (i used cooked corn removed from cobs)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala (i used curry powder)
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used fresh; orig. recipe calls for canned)
3 to 4 Tab chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oil in a large nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds being to pop, a matter of seconds, put in the asafetida (if you have any!). Stir once and put in the garlic and green chile. Stir once or twice and put in the sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds turn golden and/or pop, a matter of seconds, put in the onion and green pepper. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. (Catch your breath! :^)

Add the corn, salt, and garam masala. Stir and cook for a minute.
Add the turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, and paprika.
Stir and cook for a minute.
Add the liquefied tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Uncover, add the cilantro, and stir to mix. Serve hot.

It tastes wonderful! The cookbook recommends rolling it inside a tortilla, chapati, or pita bread. We had a couple of tortillas on hand, so that’s how we ate it for lunch on Friday. I had the leftovers on Saturday by itself – also good. Stir in a spoonful of plain yogurt if you want some added creaminess. (Note: I thought I’d bought some asafetida a few months ago, to try in various recipes, but I could not find it in any spice drawer to left it out.)

All of the produce in this recipe came from my farm share. I thought the green pepper (already chopped when the photo was taken) was a poblano chile and expected it to be hot, but it wasn’t. I see now from various online sources that poblanos are rather mild, so maybe my expectations were just off! I guess I should have used one of my jalapeños (such as the one in the photo…). I expected the two red peppers to be sweet, but the first one I cut into was HOT. I think the second one was not hot, but I’d blasted my sense of taste on the first so I couldn’t be sure. Anyway, my point is: you can adjust the spiciness through pepper selection.

I bought quite a lot of mustard seeds at my local by-the-ounce purveyor of spices because I’ve been intending to make homemade mustard. I just can’t quite get up the energy to do it, though (after all, you need lots of energy to let something soak for two days!), because I don’t even like mustard. This would be for the spouse, so I’d need his participation when it comes to the final taste adjustment step. Maybe I’ll start that…tomorrow.

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